As I sit at their absolutely ステキ wooden bar, and begin to write this review of the New Orleans restaurant Famous Door in Sapporo, I am already feeling a warm affection for this place, and sense of something like embarrassment for not coming here more often.
This place is awesome.
Sapporo’s Famous Door is an American restaurant. そうですか？Yes, that is basically true.
But America is a big place, and the formation of American included (and includes) so many different influences. In this case, Famous Door brings a Cajun flavor and a New Orleans culture to Sapporo. And if you know the history of New Orleans, the “new” is American, but the Orleans is about France. So the influence here is about a French colony, that became the home of a world famous city (in a territory that was sold to America), that has it’s own rich culture (a mix of mostly French and Caribbean influences), which is imported here, to Sapporo (the best city in the world).
I am as vulnerable as anyone for a little “home town nostalgia,” and the pro-America vibe hits me exactly perfect. It’s good to see ole’ Glory on the wall.
Famous Door is on a hot block in Kita ku, a few steps away from Nishi Nijyuyo station (right next door to Emmy’s “Mexican” restaurant and just before you might turn the corner and find the Indian restaurant Mohan Dish).
As you step off the sidewalk, you pass through a wooden frame, and under one of many signs that let you know you’ve arrived at Famous Door. The path from the street is built from old railroad ties, cut in half and layed out as you can see above. If you can imagine walking that path while Miles Davis plays overhead on an outdoor speaker, you’re beginning to know what stepping up to Famous Door in Sapporo feels like.
From the street, Famous Door does a good job of trying to show you what they are all about. They hit all the right notes here, when they say “New Orleans Food” in Sapporo and “Tasty Drink.” Does that sound good? Yes it is.
We shall return to the food, but for now… let’s talk about the drinks.
I have been to Famous Door twice (as of this review). And the main attraction for me is the atmosphere and the bar. We are rather proud of our truly excellent list of the best beer bars in Sapporo. We can add this place to that list, but Famous Door is more than a beer joint.
For now, we’ll have to owe you a good shot of the aforementioned wooden bar, but we do have a shot of the liquor selection.
Famous Door in Sapporo has several beers on tap (maybe eight?), a refrigerator full of cans, and a bar full of cocktails. As mentioned in another review (about Beer Mustache); sometimes a “shot and a beer” is the kind of medicine you need; a Goose Island IPA and a Marker’s rocks (my eagle eye can’t miss it, up there on the top shelf) sounds like a good time.
And while Sapporo has a winter season that is impossible to miss (it does gets cold here), the warmer months mean Famous Door can offer another special feature you won’t find often:
Check out at that outdoor patio at Famous Door.
While Famous Door is located in a busy part of the city, once you walk through the gate, the patio and and the building are off the street. It’s quiet and intimate. And the Western design, with all that well worn wood, is so warm and appealing. It feels special (even during winter) to even walk through this space.
As we work to build out more local Sapporo restaurant reviews, we’ll get around to doing a whole section on bars with patios (Sapporo has many). And for now, you can get over to Famous Door to enjoy one of the best beer gardens in this very special city.
But wait, wait… there’s more.
As you can see from this picture above, Sapporo’s Famous Door has an incredible interior as well. They are aiming for “New Orleans” in terms of the feel. And (while it’s not pictured here) the second floor balcony area (which looks down on the area pictured above) gives Famous Door a very “American brothel” feel. To me, the design feels like a high-end Western tavern (in the US sense, as in “cowboy country”); where the drinking would go on downstairs, and the “other entertainment” would happen one floor up.
This might be a good time to mention that we know enough about Sapporo to recognize that Famous Door is owned by the same people that own Buddy Buddy (which is across down, on the other side of Sosei River park, and is also highly recommended, for all the same reasons).
For me, as I have been to Buddy Buddy maybe 10 times, this place is “Buddy Buddy – part II.” Both are exceptional places and rank high on our list of coolest spots for drinks in Sapporo.
On the particular night that inspired this review, I stopped in a beer after eating some chicken curry and naan at Mohan Dish. Mohan Dish (Indian food in Sapporo) and Famous Door (French-Cajun influenced American) could not be more different, but going for Indian for dinner, and finishing with a nice drink at Famous Door made for a perfect night. We will eventually do some posts about “best dates in Sapporo” (and that combination may end up on that list).
As I sat down, and ordered my beer, the experience comes with the otoshi (おとおし), which in this case was a small bowl of boiled soy beans (maybe with a little vinegar?). That classic “table charge” isn’t American, and it will push the price of a beer up by 300-400yen, but if that is the price of admission to Famous Door, I’m glad to pay it.
We have spent some time here talking about the drinks and the truly excellent atmosphere. But Famous Door in Sapporo is as much a restaurant as it is a bar. And the food choices included many options available no where else in Hokkaido (except of course at Buddy Buddy).
Here you can see that some of the choices at Famous Door restaurant in Sapporo are specifically New Orleans inspired. Where else in Sapporo (or Japan, for that matter) can you get good Cajun gumbo or jambalaya? Cajun spice is it’s own genre of delicious, and Famous Door if your chance for that kind of experience.
The Famous Door menu is extensive. In the picture above you can see the emphasis on American mac and cheese (which makes me hungry just to think of it). But you can see other American options, pasta, and salads. This is not “pub food.” Famous Door offers something for everyone.
Just writing this review make me eager to get back to Famous Door for another visit. But before we end this review, we can revisit the topic of the atmosphere once more.
We are not sure who “sets the tone” at Famous Door and Buddy Buddy, but whoever it is has excellent taste in music. Both places deliver a consistently solid selections of tunes. On our most recent visit the music was a range of we’ll curated sounds, including some funk, some piano-driven jazz, and more. Very well done.
Famous Door is in a category all of it’s own, and is highly recommended.
For recommendations in this neighborhood: In addition to Mohan Dish (which we mentioned earlier), this neighborhood has a collection of noteworthy places worth visiting, including Emmy’s Mexican Food.